This little trip to a chilly riverfront Norfolk is more about a festival than the wine for which it is named. More than two dozen Virginia wineries descended on Town Point Park to inject a little spring into an otherwise dreary impression of May. I tried to capture some of the humanity who is falling in love with Virginia’s fruit of the vine. The Commonwealth ranks 5th in US wine production, and much of it quite good! See my pictures here.
With the rise of the online world and social media, more information is available to us than ever before. You are gracious enough to let us into your homes daily, but you don’t always get that extra look at how information gets to you. Here then is a look behind the scenes; pictures I snapped around the station, to provide an additional angle of the news and a candid look at just some of the journalists and production specialists on which you depend daily. That’s 10 on your side.
It was one of our first discussions. We reported a story involving a child–the details of which matter little five years later. I wrote a line that described his disability in a way which drew a piercing look from my new co-anchor. During the commercial break which followed, she politely took issue with the term, “autistic” in reference to the boy’s disability.
“Did you write that?” she asked.
“Yes.” I answered, slightly annoyed, with a dash of defensiveness in anticipating a bigger discussion that could only last for the next ninety seconds.
“Autistic–that’s not right!”
Now we hear the camera operator/floor director, “ONE MINUTE.”
“What do you mean? He has autism!”
“That’s right,” nodding with a wide smile, as if a teacher senses her student is starting to finally get it.
Before I could answer, she looked to the bright studio lights carefully searching for the words to make that gentle “correction.”
“When you say someone is autistic. you’re letting the disability define the person. It’s better to say, he ‘has autism’ because that is only a small part of who he is.”
We came back to a ”two shot” as I was nodding slightly. My brain then shifted to the next story, as my co-anchor smiled as if to say, “now you understand.”
That is Alveta Ewell.
She makes her point in a kind manner, but don’t mistake the softly spoken words for a lack of passion. Alveta has compassion for the underdog, and while most of us shake our heads over a man convicted of murder, and speak of the family he wronged, Alveta will also think of others burdened by a criminal’s choices. After one particularly violent case, she once said to me in a solemn tone, “Just imagine what his (the killer’s) mother must be going through.”
Maybe it’s her ability to see beneath various racial, political, and religious backgrounds which define mere segments of who we really are. On the day Andy Griffith passed away, the newsroom was full of stories about Griffith’s life on the Outer Banks, his immense talent as a storyteller, and his underrated ability as a dramatic actor. Alveta and I settled into a discussion about the iconic land of Mayberry, and its idealized vision of a small rural American town in the 1960′s. I asked about her impressions of that show growing up, and its portrayal of a friendly, unarmed sheriff in North Carolina during the often violent struggle for equality faced by blacks in the south during the Civil Rights era. The answer was classic Alveta Ewell.
“The Andy Griffith Show wasn’t about black or white. We saw it as just people. They went through situations and learned lessons all of us could relate to. It didn’t matter that the show didn’t have black characters. Nobody did then. That show was about humanity–not white people or black people”
Leave it to Alveta to find a common thread with which to include everyone. She doesn’t view the world in black, white and other labels we attach to people as defined by skin color or ethnic background. Some traits run through all of “humanity,” and Alveta sees the world through that prism. That quality made her a special member of the WAVY family. I’ll miss her compassionate storytelling, and monster smile that always made the WAVY newsroom a brighter place.
When she announced her decision to leave WAVY after nearly 25 years, we shared a few tears, and I told her that I will be forever grateful for her kindness during my first years in a new place. Alveta’s acceptance of me helped me connect with many of you. It’s how kindness works; it spreads through example–one which we see everyday at WAVY through the humanity of Alveta Ewell.
Sleek glass tablets provide virtual worlds of wonder. They’re platforms from which we explore everything from best-selling novels to high definition action that has the power to entertain and mesmerize. We ”tweet” electronic snippets of thought, launch video records of personal achievement , or post images of a favorite sandwich for lunch with our Facebook “friends.” Such is the modern mode of staying in touch with each other and the world. But to artist Cheryl White of Norfolk, the art of communication is best recorded by taking pen in hand.
Ms. White is combining writing and photography in her latest work “The Tide That Brings Us Home“–33 prints that now grace trains and stops along the Tide light rail line in Norfolk. Each print features photographs and maps relating to actual letters and emails written between military service members and their families. The notes range from letters from the Civil War to World War II telegrams to Facebook conversations.
Most of the letters represent a different time, when the written word stood for history–something to be touched and analyzed by the loops of cursive letters and smudges of ink from an expression of emotion. Ms. White was drawn to these letters from her own experience.
“My father, both my grandfathers, numerous uncles, an aunt, a brother-in-law, and many friends have or are currently serving in the military. My pre-teen diaries are filled with daily countdowns of the 180-plus days it would take my father to return home from six month cruises.”
Ms. White told me she “wanted to highlight memories, not memorials” as a major goal of this project made possible, in part, by the Norfolk Public Art Program. So as weary commuters wait for their train, or after they take a seat for the short ride to and from home, they’ll be reminded of what awaits them after a long day–a microcosm of what our troops missed for months or years at a time. Ms. White chose the Tide for this reason: “It makes us think of home, and that we all want to get there, safely.”
My wife and I exchanged another vow shortly after making our commitment to marriage: we must return to the land of our honeymoon for our first anniversary. I’m not one to break a promise, and neither is Crystal–hence this account of fall beauty in California. The trip took a slightly different tilt north to the lush mountainsides of Sonoma County, and the quaint town of Healdsburg which borders the Russian River. This is “new world” wine country at its finest. You’ll notice misty shots of the vineyards, images from the famed Jordan Winery, and the just a feast for the eyes captured through the lens.
Tight monochromatic spirals looming larger with every revolution until it nearly smashes through the screen of our old RCA accompanied by an orchestral buffet of deliciously classical sounds is the first scene that came to mind upon hearing the passing of Steve Sabol. Sabol was President of NFL Films, which produced beautifully paced stories of gridiron mythology, the images of which were burned the into my impressionable brain at a young age. We watched stirring cinematography which recorded, as Sabol put it, “the raw intensity of the NFL–the bloody hands, the eyes bulging, the snot spraying and the sweat flying.”
But these weren’t just old highlights. NFL Films artfully produced dramas which showed struggle, triumph, and often times, defeat; accompanied by music which made you think you were watching a biblical epic unfold in helmets and pads. But what most influenced this reporter was what was reverently known as “The Voice of God.” John Fascenda’s bass pipes and diliberate narration put you in the line of battle. Every syllable would take you to a different world, feeding a sports fantasy that would push a little boy from the living room, through the kitchen door, and to the neighborhood where 50,000 fans screamed through his mind, with Facenda dramatically describing a Franco Harris-like rumble through two suburban blocks.
Steve Sabol worked with his surviving father Ed filming nearly every NFL game for 50 years. Watch any of these pieces, including his signature poem, “The Autumn Wind” and you’ll get the essence of what I always loved about Sabol’s vision of football story-telling as an art form. Two years ago, I made a similar attempt, writing a verse for my appearance on WAVY’s Friday Night Flights. But it’s safe to say, nobody could spin gridiron heroics like Steve Sabol, and chances are, nobody will.
When Stephanie Cooke, Executive Producer of The Hampton Roads Show, asked me to capture shots of dogs for a special Through the Lens piece, I hesitated a little. Our Golden Retriever Sophie is usually a pretty good subject, but capturing other dog lovers in their element? Being the novice photographer that I am, let’s just say I was a little intimidated. But I learned something in my strolls through various neighborhoods: that we all share a special bond with our four-legged companions, and that gave me a little more confidence to share these shots. As we wind down a summer fraught with constant rain and oppressive heat, I hope you enjoy the final hours of the “dog days” of August, through the lens.
Here’s an example of pushing your craft beyond your “comfort zone.” I became quite interested in photography just a few years ago when I snapped some point-and-shoot images of sunsets near my home and was encouraged by the kind responses from many of you. But John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, used to say, “And now for something completely different.” Use that for an intro to this little collection of night shots. I’ve taken some long exposures before, but this is hand-held high-ISO stuff, and I found how difficult it is to execute. But I enjoyed the mood of the streets at night, and tried to capture the shadows and mystery of dimly lit scenes. I use a Canon EOS Rebel, and it’s somewhat limited in high ISO situations. However, I feel the camera recorded the mood of long shadows and city lights that show a different side to photography. Please enjoy this little night stroll–through the lens.
What is it about a new day at the beach? I’ve taken numerous sunset shots as a source of relaxation from the everyday grind of television. But this group of images describes a different feel. My camera takes us on a journey through the tourist section of Virginia’s largest city–before sunrise. The darkness gave me some incredible sepia and long-exposure shots and set a mysterious mood of changing color as the sun stayed hidden behind a grey blanket of puffy clouds. So enjoy a different view of the Virginia Beach oceanfront–a pre dawn Monday in April–as captured through the lens.
It sits against a rural canvas of green fields and unkempt woods that line US 158. At first glance you think this tidy white structure is one of the many houses of worship that dot the North Carolina countryside. But as I was driving toward the Outer Banks, taking various snapshots along the way for my monthly “Through the Lens” feature– which airs on The Hampton Roads Show, I did a double-take when I saw this wooden structure sitting on bricks over what appeared to be freshly raked dirt. I turned my car around, and sped back to this gleaming wood building, and noticed a sign laying by the building laced with freshly turned earth. It read: “Help Us Restore the Old Jarvisburg Colored School 1867-1950″
I walked around the simple building in awe of the history that must have passed through these plain double doors. It was the center of learning for African American students for more than 80 years–one of five “colored” schools in Currituck County until they consolidated in 1950. The buildings were then sold off by the county. Finally in 1966, the Currituck County School Board approved the Freedom on Choice School Plan following the 1964 Civil Right’s Act. This began the consolidation of schools into an integrated system.
These pictures were my favorite on this most recent “Through the Lens” odessey. Currituck County Comissioner Paul O’Neal says the county has already put more than $500,000 toward its renovation, but the job is not quite finished, “we’ re going to to have the rest of the building restored and opened as a museum. We have about $200,000 committed to finishing the interior.” Though this project has faced some delays in recent years, O’Neal hopes to have the museum opened by the end of this year.
The restoration project began in 1998 when alumni began efforts to save the school. Peggy Birkemeier, senior regional associate for North Carolina Community Foundation says it still has to raise about $30,000 to furnish the museum, which she says “will show historical information about all five schools from the Civil War to desegregation.” You can find more information about the Jarvisburg Colored School here: http://www.historicjarvisburgcoloredschool.com/history.shtml.